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Kenny Watson is the multi-faceted, 10-year-old protagonist of The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963. He is the middle child in the Watson family, wedged between his older brother, Byron, and younger sister, Joetta. Physically he is distinguished by a "lazy eye" that often makes him the target of bullies, including Byron, the “official juvenile delinquent” of the family. In kinder moments, Byron shows Kenny how to look at someone sideways so his lazy eye is not noticeable.
Perhaps Kenny’s most dominant characteristic is his intelligence. He is so smart is summoned to read in front of Byron’s class. Kenny is certain that Byron and his buddies will make fun of it for it, but Byron punched him in the arm and inwardly is proud.
In Kenny’s hometown of Flint, Michigan, he is mostly a social outcast. He has one friend who manages to trick him out of most of his dinosaur collection. Then a new boy, Rufus, and his brother move to town. Kenny and Rufus become friends until Kenny fails to stand up for Rufus. Their friendship falters until Kenny’s mother intercedes and patches things up.
Kenny is family-oriented and observant in family issues, always watching the family dynamics and what goes on with Bryon when he gets in trouble. Kenny also is gullible and falls for Byron’s tall tales, like the one about how people freeze to death in the streets at night and garbage collectors pick them their bodies before dawn. He likes spending time with his father, especially after the Ultra-Glide is installed in the family car. His favorite song is “Yakety Yak.” In Flint, he is an obedient boy who usually enjoys watching Byron get into trouble. However, he also longs for adventure.
In Birmingham, he becomes a little adventurous, defying his parents and Byron and almost drowning in a whirlpool.
However, he shows how sensitive he truly is when the church is bombed and he thinks Joetta was killed in the explosion. It takes him weeks to recover, hiding behind the couch until Byron gradually coaches him out. Byron said Kenny was brave because he was the only one in the family who looks inside the church.
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